Dealing with Technology in the Classroom

A primer on new technology that students may be introducing to the classroom to cheat, bully, or harm others. Find tips on how to determine when your students are misusing or abusing technology, such as cell phones or social networking sites.
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Cyber-Bullying

What is it? Cell phone images and texts, social networking sites, email, and instant messaging have armed bullies with new means to torment their prey. The technology also allows bullies to harass their victims after school hours. Cyber-bullies often send insults and threats to their peers and spread rumors about them.

Why is it a problem? With current technology, rumors and harmful insults can be spread instantly-and sometimes anonymously-to any number of students and strangers. Cox Communications reports that current trends in cyber-bullying suggest that female adolescents (59%) are more likely to bully and be bullied than their male counterparts (41%).

How to spot the problem: Since most bullying occurs from home computers or on cell phones, it will be hard to spot in the classroom. Since cyber-bullying is quickly replacing old-fashioned bullying, chronic absenteeism and behavioral changes in the victim may be the most obvious symptoms.

What to do: Though there is no foolproof way to stop cyber-bullying, encourage your students to report when they are victimized rather than attempt to retaliate. Tell your students to save as much information as they can when they are bullied by copying and saving insulting text into a word-processing document. If the bullying results in an image appearing on a website, tell them to print an image of the screen. Encourage students to talk to their parents, and conversely, encourage parents to talk to students about cyber-bullying. Matters of cyber-bullying should be handled similarly to regular bullying, but stricter consequences may be required.

Cyber-Bashing

What is it? Cyber-bashing is an even more serious problem than cyber-bullying. Cyber-bashing involves inflicting physical harm on an individual, capturing the abuse on camera, and uploading it to a video-hosting website, such as YouTube.

Why is it a problem? This trend is far more damaging than cyber-bullying because the assault can be shared with millions of others. Cyber-bashers, typically middleschool students, usually do not consider the wider ramifications of their actions. Many cyber-bashers leave behind irrefutable evidence of their assaults, in the form of video, and can face legal consequences. Cyber-bashing leaves victims, who also tend to be middle-school aged students, emotionally scarred. In addition, victims often live with the fear that most of their peers have seen their attack. The trend started in the UK and is growing in popularity in the United States.

How to spot the problem: This type of activity is easier to spot than the others. If students are meeting in a small or large gathering with phones, digital cameras, or other electronics, they could be preparing to record a cyber-bashing. Students viewing cyber-bashes on school computers is another warning sign that cyber-bashing may occur or has occurred within a school.

What to do: Take a zero-tolerance stance on cyber-bashing. Warn students of the consequences of engaging in cyber-bashing. Specifically, stress that perpetrators are almost guaranteed to be caught and punished since they broadcast their delinquency for the world to see. Since cyber-bashing does not always take place on school grounds, local law enforcement may need to handle cases, a fact that should also be impressed upon students. If you know of a victim of cyber-bashing, refer the student to a guidance counselor and follow the same procedures as if the conflict happened in your classroom.

Find more great Technology Resources for Teachers.
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